People Really Are Everything

Written by: Nadja Turek

One of today’s presenters opened his session with the gem, “People are everything. Software is nothing.” He was making a point about the psychology of change, about how important it is in design and construction to obtain buy-in to a unified plan and focus on teamwork. The trick is bringing people together to achieve the project goal, be it to build a facility, a site or even a community.

He’s right—it’s not about the software.

The common threads between the 3D visualization, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) sessions I attended are communication and teamwork. In one session, a construction agent demonstrated the 40-step process he used to combine three software models (Bentley, AutoCAD Civil 3D and Revit) into InfraWorks 360. The comprehensive AR model enabled his on-site clients and colleagues to “see” the entire project on a tablet, right there in the field. His efforts made it possible for anyone walking the project site to watch the planned construction come to life.

Yes, he had to redo those 40+ steps every time the model was updated, and yes, the task was arduous (although future advancements should streamline the process). The outcome was worth the trouble, though. The agent’s dedication to people facilitated teamwork and led to client buy-in.

Later in the day, I listened to a gentleman from Apple Maps describe how to implement indoor wayfinding for free (ask me how!), as well as an Autodesk developer who put a lot of study and thought into the kinds of avatars that facilitate the best experiences for collaborators in VR meetings. As it turns out, the essential components are hands, eye movements and a mass indicating personal space—yes, personal space is important in VR! They’re working now on showing real eye movements on avatars because they are so crucial to interpersonal communication, even in a VR world.

Finally, in the most moving session I attended, I witnessed a powerful example of focusing people for a greater cause. An Autodesk employee spoke about her work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency. The Autodesk Foundation donated several Infraworks 360 software seats, as well as the employee’s time, to train 40 UNHCR staff members on rapidly designing refugee camps to help displaced people.

She taught the UNHCR staff how to import available geospatial data on areas selected for camps, as well as how to avoid known problem areas such as flood plains and slopes. They learned how to use InfraWorks 360 to lay out camps that no longer resemble military barracks but rather look, feel and function like ordinary communities. These camps are not temporary, but for too long they’ve been designed like they were. She explained that “a person becomes displaced every 20 minutes on this planet, and they will remain displaced for five to 25 years.” Currently, this InfraWorks 360 process is being used to plan a camp for 800,000 refugees in Bangladesh.

People really are everything. Software is nothing.

Check out more Woolpert blogs from AU.


Nadja Turek

Nadja Turek, a civil engineer and sustainable design expert, serves as Woolpert’s Research and Development Facilitator. As a former faculty member at the University of Dayton and the Air Force Institute of Technology, she is a sought-after teacher and speaker. Nadja has provided sustainability training to over 1,000 designers and engineers and given numerous presentations as a sustainable design expert. She currently serves as an Advocacy Chairperson for USGBC’s Cincinnati Chapter.